Voters in the town of Oakland made their choice Tuesday, March 8, and incumbent Rick Polland will serve another four years as an Oakland town commissioner for Seat 1.
When the polls were closed and the votes were tallied, Polland had 120 election-day votes, three early votes and 138 vote-by-mail, or 71.31%. His challenger, newcomer Matt Bunevich, had 71 election-day votes, one early vote and 33 vote-by-mail, or 28.69%.
According to the town, voter turnout was 13.33%.
Although Polland has served on the commission since 2012, this was the first time he had a challenger and his first official election. He was pleased with the results.
“It feels very good (to be re-elected), not only because it was such a decisive election, but because of the overwhelming support I received from close friends, people who know me in town and even people who do not know me as well in town,” Polland said. “Most everyone would ask, ‘What can I do to help you out?’ That level of support meant more to me than simply winning the election. It gave me a great number of new acquaintances and friends.”
Polland has lived in Oakland for 22 years, and he said he has earned a reputation for having integrity and being sincere in wanting only what’s best for Oakland.
“In Oakland, we simply serve the town because of our love of it and its residents,” Polland said.
“I was attracted to Oakland’s small-town charm and all the history it has when I purchased our property 26 years ago,” he said. “If I could purchase all the property in Oakland and prevent the inevitable growth, I would. I will do my absolute best to control the growth and to keep our town unique from our neighboring communities so our residents can remain proud to call Oakland home.”
Continuing to work on large projects — both involving water — in the town is important, he said. One top priority is keeping the sewer project moving forward.
“We are surrounded by water — Johns Lake on the south and Lake Apopka on the north; septic systems contribute to the nutrient load on our lakes,” he said. “We need to be environmentally responsible, not just for these two lakes, but they are the head waters for the Harris Chain of Lakes that flow into the Ocklawaha River. (And we are) in the Wekiva River basin. All new commercial construction is required to hook up to our sewer system as well as residential if it is even remotely available.”
The town has embarked on a reclaimed-water project, too, that will reduce the amount of potable water being used for irrigation purposes. Oakland has purchased land in a small canal in Hull Island that will serve as an alternative water source. The town has engineered plans and currently is working on funding.
The town’s most recent construction projects have the infrastructure in place to hook up to this water source as soon as it is ready, Polland said.
“It is once again my pleasure to work for the people in Oakland four more years and work in conjunction with our Winter Garden and Clermont neighbors whenever possible and helpful for all,” Polland said.
Seat 4 incumbent Commissioner Joseph McMullen was unopposed and begins his fourth four-year term. He was first appointed in 2006.
McMullen is grateful to be able to serve the town for another term.
“I love this town, and I love West Orange County,” he said. “We are in the infancy phase of some great development in the area, and I would love to continue to be a part to see it to fruition with the vision of all the residents’ involvement. Oakland is poised to be a great town with our small-town feel and have all the amenities of a large city
“Economic development is key for Oakland,” McMullen said.
The town’s two big water projects are important for moving Oakland forward, he said. The sewer project will help with the development of businesses along West Colonial Drive, and a reclaimed water program will help with water conservation.
Both re-elected Commissioners will commence their new four-year terms at the regularly scheduled commission meeting Tuesday, March 22.